Yellowstone Is Indian Country:
This land is ancestral home to 26 Native American tribes - we do the best tours
Where: Yellowstone National Park
Meeting Place: Usually Fishing Bridge General Store
Tribes: Lakota, Piikani, Cheyenne, Crow, Shoshone, Kiowa, Blackfeet, and 19 others...
Activity level: Some walking
Duration: 9 am-til done
Cost: $595 per day
The Place of the Yellow Rock Water. Indians called it home over 10,000 years before the Pilgrims anchored at Cape Cod and sought to find their own. Since the days of Bridger and Moran, through Yellowstone becoming the first and now oldest national park in the world, the absence of a Native presence in Yellowstone has been explained by the myth that Indians feared this vast, pine-robed plateau that is punctuated by thermal wonders from lake shore to river course.
Supposedly the geysers engendered such apprehension among tribal people that they would do all they could to avoid this bountiful landscape. The Cheyenne, Kiowa, Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfeet, Nez Perce, and the most recent arrivals, the Crow, know a different story. Within these archives from ancestral memory is found a common theme – the sacred nature of the land named for the Yellow Rock Water and the connection to this place, an ancient compact between the two-legged and four and the earth that sustains, but which there (as yet) is still unmade.
From the earliest experience it was gleaned that the earth in the Place of Yellow Rock Water was uneasy with itself and, that there, creation was neither finished nor content. To be close to creation is to be upon the sacred. There was not fear but respect and intuition; the 600-square mile Yellowstone caldera is far from resting easy.
Day Tour Options:
1 - The Wolf
The Kiowa have an ancient connection to Yellowstone and we go to the origin of that bond - The Dragon's Mouth, the place of Creation - before discussing the relationship between the buffalo and the Kiowa, and the significance of the buffalo, the sacred provider of physical and spiritual sustenance in many cultures. Sacred bundles and explanations related to the buffalo embody the well-being of not only the Kiowa, but also the Lakota, Cheyenne, and other tribal people, and this inter-relationship and inter-connection is explored through traditional narratives that speak of the days when the human beings and the buffalo were as one, and how the buffalo is an ancient relative.
The wolf taught many to hunt, and would call others to share the bounty, and we also learn of that tradition – of the wolf as a teacher, and how the wolf is revered in Cheyenne and other Plains cultures, to the extent that the scouts of the people, those who guide, those who bring warnings and messages, are referred to as “wolves.”
2 - The Bear
To journey into Yellowstone is to enter the realm of the Great Bear – as the Blackfeet say, the Real Bear – the grizzly, and we will learn of the physical and spiritual significance of the bear to tribal people who shared this land with the bear. A great healer, a potent symbol of power, a guardian, and a grandfather who can instill fear, the grizzly is all of these.
Through traditional stories and explanations, and by actually entering the grizzly bears’ domain, we learn of the power and gifts the grizzly brings to the people, and the bear’s prominence in art and symbolism.
For those who want to find it, the evidence exists that tribes had a unique relationship with the treasures in the land of Yellow Rock Water millennia before European contact. But it is tribal memory that retains the authentic – the voices, the history, and the cultural perspectives – so journey with us and listen for the words and silences, the ancient songs of the two-legged and four, and see Yellowstone, a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, as you will have never seen it before.